Interrogating social virtual reality as a communication medium for older adults

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Baker, S
Kelly, RM
Waycott, J
Carrasco, R
Hoang, T
Batchelor, F
Ozanne, E
Dow, B
Warburton, J
Vetere, F
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A growing body of research is examining the way that virtual reality (VR) technology might enrich the lives of older adults. However, no studies have yet examined how this technology---combining head mounted displays, motion tracking, avatars, and virtual environments---might contribute to older adult wellbeing by facilitating greater social participation (social VR). To address this gap, we conducted three workshops in which 25 older adults aged 70 to 81 explored the utility of social VR as a medium for communicating with other older adults. Participants first created embodied avatars that were controlled through natural gestures, and subsequently used these avatars in two high-fidelity social VR prototypes. Findings from the workshops provide insight into older adults' design motivations when creating embodied avatars for social VR; their acceptance of social VR as a communication tool; and their views on how social VR might play a beneficial role in their lives. Outcomes from the workshops also illustrate the critical importance our participants placed onbehavioural anthropomorphism ---the embodied avatars' ability to speak, move, and act in a human-like manner--- alongsidetranslational factors, which encapsulate issues relating to the way physical movements are mapped to the embodied avatar and the way in which errors in these mappings may invoke ageing stereotypes. Findings demonstrate the critical role that these characteristics might play in the success of future social VR applications targeting older users. We translate our findings into a set of design considerations for developing social VR systems for older adults, and we reflect on how our participants' experiences can inform future research on social virtual reality.

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Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction

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Baker, S; Kelly, RM; Waycott, J; Carrasco, R; Hoang, T; Batchelor, F; Ozanne, E; Dow, B; Warburton, J; Vetere, F, Interrogating social virtual reality as a communication medium for older adults, Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 2019, 3, pp. 149